Report: ACA Presents Opportunity To Improve Rural Health Care Services

With the implementation of the new federal health care law, rural health systems will need to search for innovative models in order to accommodate the 5 million rural Americans expected to join Medicaid and other insurance plans, according to a new report from the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization. Rural residents already face a greater proportion of health problems and greater difficulty in accessing quality care than do their urban counterparts; 5 million live in counties labeled as health care “shortage areas.” The Affordable Care Act will provide “times of considerable stress on rural health care, but also times of great opportunity,” UnitedHeath Center chair Simon Stevens said. The center report recommends a variety of initiatives for rural areas going forward, including mobile health clinics, more active roles for nurse practitioners and increased collaboration between rural and urban health care systems. —Sarah Bufkin